There are few families who have loomed larger in the twentieth century than the Kennedys and Churchills, with the possible exception of the RooseveltsThere are few families who have loomed larger in the twentieth century than the Kennedys and Churchills, with the possible exception of the Roosevelts. Across decades and generations, their lives were intertwined through politics and business, marriages and friendships, rivalry and enmity, and those relationships had an impact that has lingered on through history. One could argue they epitomised the 'special relationship' between America and England all on their own. Of course, one talks about 'families', but this is really a book about fathers and sons. The wives, mothers and daughters rarely get much of a look in, so dominated as this book is by the figures of Joe Kennedy and his sons Joe Jr, Jack and Bobby, and Winston Churchill and his son Randolph.
The families began on friendly terms in the 1930s when Joe Kennedy began his business dealings in England and Churchill was still in his wilderness years. The relationship degenerated into bitterness and anger during the war, when Churchill reached his greatest heights and Kennedy's political ambitions were tarnished by his actions as ambassador and the perception of appeasement and cowardice in his attitude towards Nazi Germany. In the postwar years, a rapprochement between the families took place, when Jack had eclipsed his father politically and Churchill served as a political mentor and exemplar. Churchill wept when Jack was assassinated, and Randolph and Bobby died on the same day.
This is a fascinating dual biography of two families who are each interesting enough to fill entire libraries on their own. It delves into the relationships in exceptional detail, highlighting just how many political and business links existed between the two, how many mutual friends and lovers, political parallels, similar outlooks. It is also an intriguing look at the payoff of different parenting styles, how Randolph never succeeded in emerging from the shadow cast by his legendary parent, whereas Jack more than outshone his father. Maier's insights into Randolph are particulary interesting, and one emerges with no small amount of sympathy for this eclipsed son of a famous father.
So all in all, an excellent book, and one well recommended to anyone interested in either family....more
Love him or loathe him, no-one can deny that Joseph P. Kennedy presided over a truly remarkable family, a family that owed almost all of its wealth, pLove him or loathe him, no-one can deny that Joseph P. Kennedy presided over a truly remarkable family, a family that owed almost all of its wealth, position and success to him. He was ambitious, driven, possessed of an incredible strength of will and devoted to his last breath to his children - and say what you will, without Kennedy Snr behind them it is unlikely that any of his children would have risen to the heights they did.
He has always been a controversial figure, rarely hesitating to speak his mind, ruthless in pursuit of what he wanted and often on the wrong side of history. He was accused of unethical stock dealing, appeasement of Hitler, isolationism, somehow simultaneously being soft on Communism and supportive of Joe McCarthy's red-baiting. At various times he was an immensely popular national figure and later a national villain, both an asset to his sons' political careers and a liability.
Kennedy Snr will never be an entirely sympathetic historical figure, but reading this book it is hard not to appreciate the tragedies in his life. No parent should have to experience what he went through - losing his eldest son Joe Jr in WW2, responsible for a botched lobotomy that destroyed his eldest daughter Rosemary's life, losing another daughter Kick to a plane crash, watching not one but two sons murdered in public office, suffering a devastating stroke that left him conscious and aware but unable to speak or walk.
This book has been accused of hagiography, but personally I don't think Nasaw skates over any of Kennedy's flaws, simply puts them in their proper context and explains them in light of history and the psychological make-up of the man. Again, like him or loathe him, reading this book it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that America may just owe him a great deal....more
I picked this book up thinking it would be yet another investigation of the JFK assassination, another overview of the merits and weaknesses of the maI picked this book up thinking it would be yet another investigation of the JFK assassination, another overview of the merits and weaknesses of the many and varied conspiracy theories posited over the years, perhaps presuming (yet again) that finally the case has been closed with this book. The title certainly implies that, in its 'Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination'. Thankfully, and not at all to my disappointment, it isn't that at all. This book looks at the Kennedy assassination from a relatively unfamiliar angle: that of the Warren Commission presidential investigation into the assassination. Indeed, it is far more the 'Secret History of the Warren Commission' than anything else, and so much of the information contained in these pages was delightfully new and fresh to me.
Most books on the assassination do little more than dismiss the Warren Commission in a few sentences, ridiculing its narrow scope and conclusions. Indeed, with so many conspiracy theories out there, the irony is that the one thing most of them agree on is that the Warren Commission was a whitewash.
I couldn't possibly comment on the accuracy of the Commission's conclusions - nobody can. What this book certainly reveals is that for the vast majority of the young lawyers and staff who worked behind the scenes on the Commission, there was no suggestion of a deliberate cover-up, of the aforementioned whitewash. If the Commission's conclusions have been deemed by history to be faulty, that seems - as this book argues - to be largely the result of deception, deceit, back-pedalling and ass-covering by the three main security agencies: the FBI, CIA and Secret Service. It is almost without question that vital information was withheld from the Commission, information that may well have changed their final conclusions and perhaps the course of history.
In writing this engrossing and disquieting book, Philip Shenon had access to much brand-new material, recently disclosed documents and new interviews with previously unregarded individuals. He doesn't 'set out his stall' on the conspiracy theories one way or the other, although the evidence revealed does seem to strongly lean toward some Cuban connection. What he does conclude is that, almost from the moment of the assassination to the present day, senior officials in the American government have lied about the assassination, about events leading up to it, about what was known and not known about Oswald, and about what was and was not revealed to those who ought to have been privy to the full facts. There may or may not have been a conspiracy that led to JFK's death, but there has almost certainly been one to mislead, obfuscate and deny after it....more
It has been more than fifty years now since that tragic day in Dallas in 1963, and yet the public fascination with JFK shows no sign of abating. DespiIt has been more than fifty years now since that tragic day in Dallas in 1963, and yet the public fascination with JFK shows no sign of abating. Despite a presidency of just over a thousand days he is consistently ranked up with the greatest of American presidents; books, articles, documents, films, video games continue to pour out every year; and few policy initiatives or presidential campaigns have been complete without some kind of Kennedy endorsement.
In this truly engrossing book, Larry Sabato sets out to explore that Kennedy legacy, looking first at his campaign for the presidency, his brief tenure in the White House and his assassination in Dallas on 22nd November 1963. He then explores the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's death and the various investigations, primarily the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
The second half of this book is devoted to the post-Kennedy presidents and how they variously tackled the ghost in the White House, with both Democrats and Republicans consciously positioning themselves as Kennedy's successors, invoking his actions, speeches and legislation as precedents and justification for their own actions. From LBJ who consciously set out to carry out Kennedy's legacy, Bill Clinton who hero-worshipped him, and Obama, whose campaign echoed some of the rhetoric of hope and vigour that was so redolent of the New Frontier, JFK has been consistently cited and evoked far more than any other President, more than Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson.
Assassination, Sabato concludes, made JFK untouchable - and that lack of any definitive answer to the question of 'why?' has only strengthened the legend. It made him mythical, casting his brief presidency in a rose-tinted glow that will never fade, can never be tarnished, and can never be equalled. JFK will always be held up as the ultimate 'might-have-been'; his presidency always a nostalgic 'what-if'. For JFK, like Lincoln, there can be no slow decline, no gradual disillusionment and disappointment, no partisan post-presidency analysis and criticism. JFK will eternally be young and handsome and energetic, will always be the embodiment of America in the hopeful early days of the Sixties, a promise that was destroyed before it could be betrayed....more
The title of this book is somewhat misleading. It is ostensibly about all of the Kennedy men, but in reality it is largely about Joe Kennedy Snr and JThe title of this book is somewhat misleading. It is ostensibly about all of the Kennedy men, but in reality it is largely about Joe Kennedy Snr and John F. Kennedy, with a healthy side-helping of Bobby and Joe Jnr, but Teddy gets fairly short shrift. And the fact that book ends with JFK's assassination in 1963, despite the fact that Joe Kennedy lived another six years, Bobby another five years and Teddy until 2009, is telling.
Bobby and Teddy's lives are very much written as an adjunct of their brother's - the book doesn't mention Teddy's Senate career at all after he has won his seat, and Bobby is only mentioned in his capacity as his brother's Attorney General. It's a shame, because they are both such interesting personalities in their own right, and it would have interesting to have some comparisons drawn between Teddy's early days and his later role at the Lion of the Senate.
That said, it's an excellent book, incredibly detailed and well-written, as the nearly thousand pages attest. As a bit of a Kennedy buff, there was little new here for me, but it would serve an excellent introductory biography to the Kennedy men. The level of detail about JFK's injuries and health was certainly impressive - I'm not sure which is more of a miracle, that with such poor health JFK ever managed to serve in WW2, campaign for and serve as a Congressman, Senator and President of the United States, or that he somehow managed to conceal such ill health and project such an image of youth and vitality....more
I've always had a thing for the Kennedys. I was a huge assassination buff in my teens and whilst I've grown out of that I'm still fascinated by the imI've always had a thing for the Kennedys. I was a huge assassination buff in my teens and whilst I've grown out of that I'm still fascinated by the image of glamour and youth and excitement that they projected. I think America lost something the day JFK was assassinated and they've not got it back yet. But anyway, I digress. This is very good book, nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking, but it focuses much more on Jack and Jackie's private life, their relationships with their friends, family and each other, than it does on the political side of things. It's not an obseqious read either - it doesn't gloss over JFK's infidelities, for example. It's perhaps longer than it needs to be and I could have done with less detail about Jackie's clothes, but you can't have everything, I suppose!...more
This is a very very good book, insightful, thought-provoking, interesting and very moving. I found myself in tears at more than a few points. It's aboThis is a very very good book, insightful, thought-provoking, interesting and very moving. I found myself in tears at more than a few points. It's about Jack and Bobby Kennedy and their relationship throughout 'the Kennedy years'.
History seems to have sidelined Bobby and his murder over the years - the attention has always been on JFK and his assassination - but the way this book looked at Bobby broke my heart. Because Jack was his whole world, his primary focus - and when Jack was murdered Bobby was absolutely bereft. And then he pulled himself together, set about on a political career of his own and set out after the White House, all so he could continue his brother's legacy, and was then murdered himself.
It just shouldn't have happened and it breaks my heart to think about what the US would have been like had they lived.
And yes, I do think there was a conspiracy, and I blame the CIA....more